ANDY PICKFORD: Maelstrom 2019 24-bit Collectors Edition (2019)
Updated: Sep 13
“Maelstrom is full of melodious themes singing over intelligent rhythmic patterns that it sounds like a Greatest Hits, A best of...”
1 Maelstrom (Album Part 1) 28:24
2 Maelstrom (Album Part 2) 43:56
3 Voyager 6:52
4 Cathedral 5:20
5 Blue World 9:41
6 Tetsuo 8:18
7 Symbiosis 16:32
8 Raumfahrer 5:56
9 Oblivion 12:27
10 Hellsgate 11:49
11 Maelstrom (2019 16bit version) 1:11:24
12 Cathedral-Hellsgate (Live) 18:38
13 Raumfahrer (Live) 24bit 9:23
14 Angstrom 6:28
15 Cephaloastral 8:04
16 In Silent Vigil 5:02
17 May 3:45
18 Blue World 2012 (2019 Remix) 9:17
19 Blue World Bonkers Mix (2019) 8:29
20 Cathedral 2012 (2019 Remix) 7:32
(DDL 4:57:23) (V.F.)
(Progressif England School, Rock & EDM)
It's done! I am now a proud member of Andy Pickford's fan club! This Greatest Hits is absolutely awesome. Title after title, the music scrolls with daredevil rhythms hammered by sequences and percussions whose various tones and rhythmic directions hook these rhythmic harmonies to melodies erected to create earworms. But wait! It's not a Best of..., It's MAELSTROM! I've heard a lot about this 5th AP album. I even heard it with a friend, ten years ago. I compared it to a Mark Shreeve who lacks vitamins. What a blunder! For the past two weeks, I have sat down to listen it, along with Lughnasad and compare. Compare the music to that of Redshift's soul, although 10 years separate MAELSTROM and Legion. To compare it with the 3 versions (95-13 and 19) of this impressive album that, it's clear now, I had undoubtedly listened to one ear while the other was in the middle of a conversation. I choose the MAELSTROM 2019 24-bit COLLECTORS EDITION version to write this review. In addition to having the full album in enhanced sound quality, this edition offers different options to listen to the album as well as bonus tracks, tracks performed in concert and two remixes of Blue World; one of the most beautiful titles in AP's repertoire.
And he doesn't waste any time expanding his power of attraction and seduction!
From the allegorical opening of Voyager, the rhythm sets in and becomes what we call viral with good orchestrations that respond to the harmony of a synthesized guitar and his solos as sharp as a Brian May trying to make his fingers twisting on the neck of his guitar. With its musical nods to Tangerine Dream, Le Parc, the rhythms of Mark Shreeve in Legion and the philharmonic universe of Jean-Michel Jarre, AP wraps this first track with all the ingredients possible to make of it an instant success. And it's not over. An orchestral veil falls from the stars and awakens a synth's chorus that floats in a dreamlike phase before a din of robotic percussions ignites a Space Reggae and its vocoder which continues to make of Cathedral another success of the psychedelic synth-pop genre. It's the ancestor of down-tempo! In fact, I guess! But these are two splendid tracks coated with particularly good arrangements, including a synth with tears of trumpets switching into a saxophone, which have just landed between my dazzled ears. Blue World is the image of its music. Music from the Islands with a soft rhythm where different layers of harmonies stylized by a saxophone jet follow one another. We are talking about great music here where the 24-bit remixing makes much more attractive. AP offers 2 other remixes of this title, and I must admit that Blue World 2012 is pharaonic and close to Babel in terms of harmonic language. But what solos my friends on this title !! Tetsuo and its nervous pace in the action movie genre is simply crazy. Especially when the percussions roll in series of thunders! We arrive then to the long Symbiosis. Long, but brilliantly designed in a detail to avoid any form of redundancy and boredom for the listener who thinks to have 2 or 3 titles for the price of one. The more than 16 minutes are always interspersed with a harmonic, if not rhythmic, visions with some ambient phases woven into surrealist orchestrations. As a result, our senses are always on alert. These senses that AP drives into our system with a final that we expected but which surprises all the same. Note that on each original track on the 1995 and 2013 albums, Andy extends the finals a bit.
Raumfahrer offers a good melodious texture with a melancholic keyboard which leaves its dreams to the care of the arpeggios which are in Yanni mode. The rhythmic structure is flickering with a crossing of two lines of sequences, one of which is as harmonic than rhythmic. The version concert offers violent synth solos on a structure that has restructured its rhythm into good electronic rock. Static-filled breezes and white noises present a theatrical opening full of fear-movie pastiches. Fat notes ring out like explosions as a demonic voice keeps laughing. We're in the den of fear with those jingling chains and other mass sound effects that enliven Oblivion's opening. The rhythm which hatches out varies its speed between a stationary state to reach a good rock with a mesh of electronic percussions and sequences, both nervous, which supports this kind of melody sticking in the bottom of our eardrums. It's not comparable to Voyager or Cathedral but we are not far from it. The finale is like its opening. Its first two minutes are dedicated to superb synth solos which stylize aerial figures on a static rhythm. A rhythm which slowly evolves to reach a big catchy electronic rock which tries to follow the velocity of the synth solos. AP doesn't stop multiplying his solos and their reverberation effects in a structure that turns more into a more theatrical rock, imagine an electronic version of Alice Cooper, to reach a final presented on the multiple wavelets of an undulating rhythm which follows the solos, still lively, and the atmospheres, always dark, of a Hellsgate which ends up letting his last breath.
Then it's the round of gifts!
I have listened to the 16-bit version in lengths. This is for iPhones 😊. Cathedral-Hellsgate in concert is simply phenomenal. It's true that the two titles merge well together. This version seems different from that of Works 2 - Live at Derby Guildhall which offers more tone in terms of sound. Angstrom comes from the Dystopia album, an album of leftovers released immediately after MAELSTROM in 95, just like Cephaloastral and May. And for information, if you own the 95 or the 2013 version of Maelstrom, the bonus tracks here are also offered in a CD-R entitled Maelstrom Companion. Cephaloastral is a gradually evolving track which offers good rhythm and good effects, both rhythmic and atmospheric, on a structure that is livelier than static. There are some good solos in its second half that have that spectral and vampiric touch unique to the England School model, with Mark Shreeve and Ian Boddy in the lead. It's a good title, just like the sibylline ambiences of In Silent Vigil which seems to be a real new title. May is a short offering of the synthesizer and its spinning solos in an ambience which borders paranoia. Cathedral 2012 (2019 Remix) is a hyper boosted version of Cathedral. Let's say that Andy Pickford gave it all here! MAELSTROM 2019 24-bit COLLECTORS EDITION should be considered like a huge gift that Andy Pickford is giving to his public. I discovered an album quite simply remarkable in a background of sounds enhanced and more detailed than the 2013 version. The Maelstrom Companion section offers incredibly good moments, but nothing that equals the ambiences, rhythms and melodies of MAELSTROM which is an essential album that must be discovered and possessed!
Sylvain Lupari (September 12th, 2020) ****½*
Available at Andy Pickford Bandcamp